How to Protect Your Children from the Bad Effects of Social Isolation
One frightening effect of the Covid19 pandemic is the growing rates of suicide attempts among children, especially, teenagers. While social isolation is one of the measures being implemented across the world in combating this virus, it cannot be denied that it has an effect on the mental well-being of young kids, especially, among teenagers. How can you protect your children from the bad effects of social isolation?
Since the start of the global lockdown in March 2020, there have been reports of increasing rates of depression and anxiety not only among adults but among children of various ages as well. While there are reported cases of increased household violence, there were increased rates also of depression and anxiety that are not due to those cases. Parents and psychologists blame this on social isolation.
Clinicians theorize that a short period of isolation may not have an effect but a prolonged and continuous one may have an impact on a child’s mental health. They also point out that social isolation may result in depression and anxiety because when onsite schooling stopped, children had less time or no chance to play and interact with other children. They consider the schools to be a place for them not only to study but also to play.
This is especially true among preschoolers and grade school children who need to build their character foundation in schools aside from their homes and neighborhood. Younger children have more difficulty learning also at home than what they used to do in schools because of the inability of some parents to teach and this causes frustration on both parents and the children.
Teeners may be older but are not more emotionally secure. Those of the adolescent age, even before the pandemic, are having a hard time adjusting and understanding the physical and emotional changes in themselves. This is more so with the occurrence of the pandemic where there is an atmosphere of anxiety, confusion, frustration, and depression.
Aside from studying, children need to play sports activities, build social skills, and interact with their teachers, classmates, and friends. They need not only schools but playgrounds and sports areas as well which are places of social activities.
Covid19 pandemic is unprecedented and so is the social isolation that is being implemented globally. Due to this, there is no well-established study yet of the effects of social isolation on children.
The authors of Rapid Systematic Review, in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry gathered information from MEDLINE, PsycInfo, and Web of Science for their articles published between January 1, 1946 and March 29, 2020. This resulted in 80 studies.
From these studies, they concluded that children and adolescents are more prone to the bad effects of social isolation, and the rate increases as the enforced isolation continues.
Social isolation is not necessarily equated with loneliness. However, more than one-third of teenagers report high levels of loneliness, especially, among the adolescent stage groups and almost half of 18 to 24 year-olds feel lonely during the lockdown. There are reasons for the public to be concerned because loneliness often results in mental health problems.
Social isolation, in some cases, may be good to some, especially those who are suffering from bullying outside of their homes. The highly extroverted are the ones more affected by social isolation.
Kids who have previous mental issues before the pandemic or those with a family history of mental illness are at greater risk. Examples are those with pre-existing anxiety disorders and those who are school phobic.
Some may be fine before the pandemic but after losing contact, their mental illness may resurface or get worse.
Tips to protect your children from the social isolation bad effects:
1. Nothing works better than communication. The more they are informed of the situation the less confused they are about what is happening around them.
2. Allow them to connect with the use of technology. Reconnecting with their classmates and friends is a healthy way to rebuild social skills via the internet.
3. Reconnect and strengthen family relationships. This is a great time to spend more time with them, especially, among work at home parents.
4. Be observant. If you see your children are having increasing signs of mental health problems, they should receive preventive support and early intervention where possible.
Parents and children alike, experience frustration levels. If a parent looks always anxious, children will feel the same. Parents should manage their stress. If not possible, then seek outside help. But you should acknowledge yourself and believe that you are doing the best that you can. Know that this is normal and you are not alone in feeling a certain level of uncertainty during these times.